This is part three of a conversation between two authors whose books discuss the faith of J. R. R. Tolkien and the religious values underpinning The Lord of the Rings. Parts one and two appeared on our website earlier this week.
Bradley J. Birzer is assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he specializes in the history of the American West, and related topics. His book, J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth, was just published by ISI Books.
Mark Eddy Smith is a graphic designer at InterVarsity Press, which published his book, Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of The Lord of the Rings, earlier this year. (purchase)
From: Brad Birzer
To: Mark Eddy Smith
Thanks for the great response. I agree with you completely regarding Faerie. We are inadequate to speak or write about it, as it's beyond us. In the modern world, Tolkien did get as close as anyone in describing it. I do, however, think we could go back to the saints and mystics of history and find many who also described it accurately.
Each of the New Testament writers had an intimate understanding of Faerie. As Tolkien wrote in his brilliant academic essay, "On Fairy-Stories," "The gospel contains a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: 'mythical' in their perfect, self-contained significance . …But this story has entered history and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of creation."
For Tolkien, as with all Christians, God's story ("God's spell") reaches its highest fulfillment with the Incarnation, death, ...